Super Bowl catalyst for positive change in New Orleans Saints organization

Super Bowl catalyst for positive change in New Orleans Saints organization
May 30, 2010
By Jeff Duncan
The Times-Picayune

The Super Bowl title did a lot of things for the New Orleans Saints.
Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune
Seeing a record number of former players turn out for the induction into Glennon "Silky" Powell, Joe Horn and Dan "Chief" Simmons into the Saints Hall of Fame this fall would show what a long way the organization has come in showing its pride.
Most of all, it restored pride. Or more accurately, it established pride in an organization long in need of some.
Heretofore, the Saints were known largely as the NFL's version of the Chicago Cubs, the league's lovable fleur de losers. They provided content for NFL Films' follies but not much else.
Now, it's cool to be a Saint. For the first time in, well, maybe, forever, former players swell with pride when they say they're ex-Saints. Black and Gold membership never carried more status.
This is a notable departure from past years when the Saints embraced their heritage with as much affection as Michael Jackson did his. Their connection with alumni always was spotty at best. And the club has done little to develop any sort of tradition or organizational heritage.
If anything, the Saints have gone out of their way to distance themselves from their forebears.
At one time, owner Tom Benson was so intent on distancing his club from the past he ordered all references to owner John Mecom's tenure be removed from the media guides. And for unknown reasons, there's been lingering resistance to honor former players like Sam Mills in the Superdome.
Former Saints coach Jim Haslett tried to establish some level of tradition when he had pictures of former Saints stars hung on the walls of the training facility. To this day, players walk pass huge poster-sized shots of Archie Manning, Bobby Hebert, Jim Dombrowski and Pat Swilling, among others on their way to meeting rooms in the building. Haslett wanted to do the same in the cafeteria and perhaps even name the building for a former coach or player, but the idea died on the vine.
Winning, though, changes everything -- especially when the win is a Super Bowl title. There were signs throughout the magical 2009 season that these flawed ideological walls were being razed.
Benson invited Mecom to be his guest to two games this season. In turn, Rickey Jackson invited Benson to be the speaker at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction this summer.
Saints Coach Sean Payton seems intent on improving the relationship with former players and coaches. He reached out to La'Roi Glover, Morten Andersen and Jim Mora last season and welcomed them to the practices and games. He and General Manager Mickey Loomis made a classy gesture to former star running back Deuce McAllister when they added him to the active roster for the playoff game against Arizona.
And Payton's made a conscious effort to improve the participation in Saints Hall of Fame activities. As an incentive, he allowed players to count the golf tournament as part of their participation in the club's offseason program. The result was a record number of players and coaches at Monday's golf tournament at Chateau Golf and Country Club in Kenner. In all 47 former and current players and several coaches participated.
Not long ago the organization committed no more than a single foursome to the event.
So the Saints clearly are headed in the right direction. But more needs to be done. And the Super Bowl can be catalyst for positive change.
The old Saints teams weren't as successful as the 2009 champions but they're part of the family nonetheless.
Besides, it's blatantly unfair to blame them alone for the losses. Many of these guys gave their blood, sweat and tears to the cause, albeit futilely.
Payton knows as well as anyone that NFL teams win or lose because of factors much greater than individual talent. Some of those old Saints teams were good enough to win but couldn't overcome the dysfunctional management of the club. A 38-year drought of postseason success is attributed to more than just X's and O's and Johnnys and Joes.
The Saints' 2009 media guide lists 1,017 players on the club's all-time roster. That's every player ever active for at least one regular-season game. It'd be nice to see a record number of them here for Hall of Fame weekend when Joe Horn, Dan "Chief" Simmons and Glennon "Silky" Powell are inducted this fall.
Mitch Landrieu rode a campaign platform of inclusivity to a landslide victory in the recent mayoral election. His promise to eliminate the divisive factions in City Hall was a breath of fresh air.
It's time for the Saints to do the same. Now more than ever.
Comments: 0